Game of Thrones review: Jumping the shark

game-of-thrones-season-7-episode-6-post-10

One of the features of the Game of Thrones TV series, based on the J.J. R Martin’s novels, that I find most interesting is its attempt to create a medieval high fantasy, but one grounded in a bit of realism. A flaw often made within fantasy settings (such as the Tolkien novels, the D&D gaming system of Gray Gygax or computer games, notably the World of Warcraft series) is to a failure to consider the consequences if you start to introduce magic or dragons into, say a medieval world.

For example, as this vlog post from Shaduniversity points out, if you end up in a world with dragons or wizards who can melt castle walls (or dimensionally travel inside them) then, unless a counter measure can be created (e.g. blocking dimensional travel, defences capable of resisting such attack), castles become pretty much useless and nobody would bother to build them. Similarly if an army has to face off against dragons or spell wielding wizards, it would be suicidal to do so using the sort of tightly packed infantry formations commonly used during the medieval period. And magic would have an impact on the economy, to the point where the feudal system wouldn’t really work any more. In short a medieval high fantasy world with magic won’t exist, because this ignores the essential reasons of how the medieval world worked.

GoT and J. J. R. Martin’s books do attempt to try and address this by toning down the magic element a lot (spell casters are so rare many doubt they even exist), aiming more for “low fantasy rather than high fantasy genre. However, that said, the GoT series has kind of gone off on the odd tangent which I feel which does kind of let itself down, particularly in the latest series.

How to loose allies and alienate your subjects

Let’s start with a major plot hole, how is Cersei still on the throne after blowing up the great Sept of Baelor with a large numbers of the nobility inside? A feudal society is held together by its religion, so such a blatant attack on the church, as well as the nobles and the common folk, would generally guarantee immediate overthrow. Part of the role of the church is to get the peasants to accept their place and not roast the nobles on spits (as did happen more than a few times in our history when the church was unable to restrain them). Even if Cersei could pin the blame on some outside force, in medieval times people interpreted misfortune as proof that the divine mandate rulers relied on had been withdrawn.

Peasants_Revolt_-_SoundSet_Art_-_SMALLER_for_Website

Sometimes the peasants can be revolting in more ways than one!

So if something like that ever happened in an actual medieval society, there would be a massive uprising shortly thereafter. But Cersei could just put that down with army right…..which army would that be? Medieval rulers did not maintain large armies, they might have a few hundred knights, maybe a thousand or so men at arms at most. This was kind of the whole point of the feudal system. Without all the labour saving technology later societies enjoyed, it required massive amounts of manpower to harvest crops, manufacture goods and keep the wheels of the economy going.

Instead rulers looked to the nobles to administer their lands and raise troops for them, with each noble typically commanding a few dozen to a few hundred full time troops, as well as being able to raise larger armies from among their peasants on a temporary basis as and when needed (and usually only on a seasonal basis). In short, feudalism was just a giant protection racket, which the church legitimised.

This has two consequences, firstly raising armies is expensive, simply because by taking people away from the fields you are making labour more expensive, which means everything else in the economy gets more expensive, which means sooner or later a ruler runs out of coin to pay them (and no, a foreign bank isn’t going to be able to bail them out, as the issue here is we are trying to defy the laws of economic gravity).

And secondly if the nobles withdraw their support, that ruler is screwed. The nobles (the made men in our medieval world) wouldn’t support Cersei in this a scenario because she’s broken the code (you can’t kill your fellow nobles, they’d worry she might have them killed on a whim as well). They’d also fear the consequences of their own people rebelling if they backed her. And, all to aware that her goose was basically cooked, why back a lost cause? Better to sit on their hands and do nothing and then pivot behind whoever comes out on top later. This happened time and again throughout medieval history. Most of said rulers military strength will simply disappear (or worse turn on them in the middle of a battle) along with most of their finance.

And to make matters worse in a large city (such as King’s Landing) they’d rely on local militia (basically the medieval equivalent of community support officers) to keep the peace, who would not be reliable in a scenario such as this (most would join the uprising and the rest would stay out of the mob’s way).

So balance of probability is that in such a scenario, there would be an uprising, she’d lose control of not only the city but the entire country and while she could barricade herself in the Red Keep, that would be a risky strategy as she’d be trapped when her enemies showed up. So her best option would be to flee.

Meanwhile the nobility would rally around some obvious challenger. And in GoT that likely be the surviving Tyrell’s or the Dornish houses (incidentally, a major plot hole in season 7 being how they can go from having an army of at least 100,000 one episode to both armies vanishing the next) who would advance on the capital, picking up allies as they went and arrive to essentially find it an open city. The Queen would facing a toss up between being handed over to them on arrival (then executed), killed by her own guards (fun fact, one of leading causes of death for Roman emperors was to be killed by the Pretorian guard, there’s been plenty of Kingslayer’s throughout history) or hunted down afterwards.

In a high fantasy setting, where the ruler is for example a powerful magic user, or perhaps a dragon rider (such as Daenerys) then they can get away with things a normal medieval ruler couldn’t do, simply because overthrowing them isn’t as easy. However, even they would be limited in what they could get away with as they would be bound by many of the same limitations as any feudal ruler. This actually something that GoT did cover rather well in the 5th and 6th series where Daenerys tried to do the right thing in Meereen, but soon found that this wasn’t an easy thing to do.

Right to rule

A significant plot hammer element of series 7 was establishing Jon Snow as the rightful ruler of the Iron throne, presumably because he ends up on it at the end of season 8. Because the person with the best credentials always ends up on the throne, don’t they?….ummmm…no!

As this BBC article discusses, ya he might well have the most credible case, but as its experts also point out that might not matter diddly squat in a medieval world, where possession is 9/10 th’s of the law. The Lannister’s and Baratheon’s have almost no credible claim, yet they’ve been on the throne for 7 seasons and there’s plenty of similar examples in history.

Take Queen Matilda. After the white ship disaster killed her brother she became next in line for the English throne. Her father went out of his way to ensure her succession won’t be challenged. He arranged a strategic marriage, got all the lords and nobles to pledge to her….only after the king died those pledges were broken before rigamortis had even set in and his bastard brother Stephen of Blois, a French noble who barely spoke a word of English, ceased the throne. That said, William the Conqueror’s claim to the throne was also fairly dubious.

As I mentioned above, the likely outcome of Cersei’s actions in series 6 (if the Lannister/Baratheon’s had managed to last that long, i.e. the nobles hadn’t ousted them after the red wedding) would be to unite the whole country against her, allowing the surviving Tyrell’s and Martell’s to take over. They might well invite in Daenerys afterwards with a suitable marriage pact to legitimise their claim (this was a theme explored in the novels). But either way, they’d be the ones calling the shots.

The problem with Jon‘s claim, as outlined in season 7, is its meaningless. His only evidence revolves around a vision his brother Bran had (which is a bit like saying, the bloke down the pub told me). There is some documentary evidence of a marriage annulment, but no mention of him, nor any living witnesses who can verify any of it (which is the problem with GoT’s murderous habit of killing people off). Its a medieval world, its not as if they can take him down to a clinic and run a paternity test.

Indeed, the likely outcome of such a plotline would be that the Southern lords would laugh him out of the room, pointing out that by breaking with the seven kingdoms he’d invalidated any claim to the throne (it would be like Nicola Sturgeon getting Scottish independence and then a few years later trying to become PM in Westminster). Meanwhile the northern lords upon hearing he’s a Targaryen and not a Stark at all, would kick him out and he’d end up back at the wall. And we know what happened last time he was there.

Defensive architecture

One rather annoying feature of GoT is that they don’t seem to know what a moat is, something that Shaduniversity also mentions in this video with regard to Casterly Rock.

f75cf480bbf138809e36985eb715bcf4

Moats are kind of important

A moat is kind of essential around any keep because you want to keep attackers away from the base of your walls. Otherwise a bunch of guys with sledgehammers can just stand there and pound a hole in it. Note that a moat doesn’t have to be filled with water. Any sort of defensive ditch will do. In some parts of the world they’d just fill it with lots of large polished boulders ( or dragon’s teeth or wooden stakes), the whole point is to stop the enemy approaching your walls in any sort of organised formation.

And this becomes doubly important when we are in a high fantasy setting with magical beasts, wizards or giants. You absolutely want to keep such creatures as far away from your castle walls as possible, given the enormous damage they could inflict if they get close enough. If anything, the likely response (if, as noted, we still bother to build castles at all) would be to make moats even larger or wider. Or add further layers of defence (as was the case once cannons appeared).

Perhaps the worse offender of these rules is “the wall” in the North. Without any sort of a moat or defensive ditch all the Wildlings (or undead) need to do is basically pile timber at the bottom of it and light a fire. The Night’s watch, 300ft up on top of the wall could not effectively target them or defend the wall from such a distance. So in addition to a moat, you’d want a second set of battlements further down, close enough that they could target the attackers below.

800px-The_Wall

The undefendable wall

Also the gate out of the wall into the north, the obvious weak point, has no gatehouse or barbican. Normally in a medieval castle you’d include such a structure, as this creates an additional set of barriers between an attacker and the gate. They now have to overcome a moat and at least two sets of gates and portcullises, all the while they’ll be coming under fire from the troops inside the supporting towers and on the walls above.

Oh and when winter does come, Winterfell is screwed.

Anti-dragon defences

In GoT large crossbow’s are used to defend against dragons (in the novel’s this is how the Dornish were initially able to hold off against the Targaryen’s). Now if we were to put several of those on the tops of a castle, in well reinforced positions, where they could mutually support one another (i.e. provide covering fire while one or other is being reloaded) then that could work, as they’d effectively function much like a flak tower from World War II, creating a zone of immunity from dragons, or flying enemies, around the castle.

However in an open field its not going to work as well, as there’s various way’s it can be countered. Simple combined arms tactics (where dragons and ground forces mutually support one another) is one option. In world war II pilots would fly a figure of eight attack pattern over targets, often pairing up with a wing man. It was hard enough to defend against such tactics with anti-aircraft guns, with a crossbow (which is going to require a crew sometime to reload after each shot) it would likely be impossible (unless, as noted they were built into a well reinforced structure). So in short, Bronn should have gotten fried.

…And since we’re talking about Jamie should have drowned (while armour isn’t as restrictive to movement as many think, the one thing you can’t easily do is swim in armour)….. And also since we’re talking about it, how is Daenerys supposed to be able to hang on to a dragon while its cruising along in a 60 mph jet stream? Or is one of those Targaryen superpowers having Velcro like skin? Presumably she should be using a saddle.

Jokes aside, in any high fantasy setting this would drastically change how battles would be fought. Unless an army had its own magic users (or dragons) to counter the enemies, they would not engage in large field battles, preferring instead to fight from well defended keeps (with moats presumably!).

And in a high fantasy setting with magic users, defending against flying enemies does become a lot easier, as those magic users will be able to sling spells at a dragon at a considerably longer range than it can engage them. One of the most effective tactics probably being to use mind effecting spells to confuse, stun or paralyse the dragon while its in flight, hopefully causing it to crash.

Just one guy

A common trope in high fantasy which isn’t realistic is where you have one guy who is so hugely strong or so brilliant in battle that they can single handedly take on an entire army. Now while this might apply for someone with an unnatural advantage (e.g. a dragon rider with three two large dragons or a very powerful wizard, etc.), otherwise its a bit silly. One guy is still one guy. I would argue the D&D gaming system is mostly to blame for this (and I suspect you’ll find a large number of high fantasy writers have played this system before), as its possible under the game’s rules to create ubra powerful Munchkin’s, which wouldn’t be realistic, even in the context of a high fantasy setting.

munchkin1

Munchkins….complete with a +12 chainsaw

The mountain”, or whatever he’s called these days, would be a good example of this. The thing is, its easy to overcome such an enemy. Just have a dozen guys rush him all at once, knock him off his feet and then basically sit on him. Its essentially how prison officers deal with some out of control crack head and how the whole sport of rugby works. Okay, unless they catch him off guard, he might get his sword out and maybe take down one or two of them, but that’s about the best he could hope for. A suitably determined bunch of attackers (e.g. the faith’s militant) would still be able to overcome him. Its certainly a better strategy than attacking him one by one while the rest hop around him in a vaguely threatening manner.

Indeed, the D&D system compensates for itself by including overbearing” rules to counter this very problem, giving a mob of relatively weaker attackers an opportunity to rugby tackle an stronger individual and pin him down.

Undead are kind of crap at fighting

It worries me that series 8 seems like it will be entirely based upon the fight against the undead attacking from the North. If GoT hasn’t already jumped the shark, this certainly suggests it will in series 8. And that’s even before we consider the debacle of episode 6 of series 7 (okay, so you want to lead a banzai charge north with the goal of abducting an undead creature made of ice and take him south to somewhere warmer, hope he doesn’t wind up as a glass of water on the way, to convince a queen, who by all rights is wholly untrustworthy and cannot be relied upon, to send her army north, hoping that said undead doesn’t break free in the process and create more undead out of the 500,0000 people in King’s Landing, I mean what could possibly go wrong!).

39a074ec4840396b6dcf8650acca711e

Episode 6 season 7 in a nutshell

The reality is that while undead might seem scary, but even in the context of a high fantasy setting, they are kind of crap. The key feature that has led us humans to dominate this earth is our intelligence. The idea that undead, who share all the essential features of a human except our intelligence are going to someone win is just plain silly. In fact, even within the confines of the D&D gaming rules its not going to happen. Indeed back during my DM’ing days I’ve saw one or two scenarios where large hordes of undead got beaten fairly easily, usually because those fighting them adopted clever tactics (e.g. such as those deployed by the Romans used during the battle of Watling street) or took advantage of any known weakness or vulnerability they had.

Okay, having the Night King on a dragon does kind of change things (of course he only has one of those because of “banzai” Jon’s charge up north), but not by much (one guy is still one guy, indeed, it suggests a strategy of throwing the kitchen sink at him, a combined attack with dragonglass crossbow bolts & two dragons, take him out and then his army is literally toast).

Breaking the wheel

Daenerys (Ms Velcro) & Tyrion spend quite a bit of time talking about “breaking the wheel, essentially breaking the feudal system. Reading between the plot lines the implication is that of having some sort of democratic system afterwards. However, that would be a bit implausible, democracy won’t really work in a feudal world where most people can’t even read or write. The likelihood is the people would vote for some Trump like figure, who promise to rebuild the wall (and make the night king pay for it), then blame liberal bleeding hearts like Jon Snow or Wildling migrants for it falling down in the first place.

As I discussed in a prior post, one of Plato and Scorates arguments against democracy was that it only works if the voters are well educated and put some serious thought into their decisions. The minute voters start voting for someone “for a laugh” or start using ballot boxes as a urinal in which to vent their personal frustrations (e.g. voting for brexit to get back at Tories for austerity), you quickly end up with a system which isn’t much better. Indeed, given that kings are two a penny and can be easily overthrown, while a president with a democratic mandate is a lot harder to overthrow (even if the public now realise they were lied too and hate his guts), you could end up with something worse (as Trump may well be in the process of proving).

And worse still, in a high fantasy setting where magic can be used to influence the outcome of an election (and inevitably the greedy and corrupt will do so), democracy could become downright dangerous. Furthermore, if you are familiar with the novels there’s already a system in Westeros to deal with a succession crisis democratically, by calling a great council and the lords electing a new king.

Looking back at human history, one would argue that a far more effective strategy would be to create an independent judiciary. Once the law is out of the hands of nobles and in the hands of magistrates it means the days of fighting and pillaging are over (because the aggrieved party will just go to a magistrate, get a court order, the property will have to be handed back and the perpetrator gets a to serve time at his majesty’s pleasure for his trouble). Promoting education, science and medicine will generally better society, but it also means the more people who can read, the more know about their rights and how to exploit them.

And science means developing new technologies to increase productivity, meaning more can be spared from work in the fields to take up the increasing number of new jobs which require an education, which means you’re starting to create a whole new class of people between the nobles and the peasants. Democracy and elections would presumably come much later.

And sooner or later in such a society one of these newly educated people is going to invent a printing press and then its game over, because now every new idea can be copied and distributed thousands of times over in the space of a day. The process from this point onwards becomes unstoppable, any attempt by the nobility to push back would likely result in a violent revolution. Not unlike the French revolution, which was started not so much by the peasants, but by the third estate (i.e. the educated, merchants, minor nobles, etc.) who had done rather well out of earlier reforms and worried about the nobles rowing things back.

Running out of steam

In short, GoT started off well but they’ve painted themselves into a corner by killing off characters who were kind of important to the plot and its thrashed their storyline. A situation not helped by missing out key characters from the books (e.g. Arianne Martell, Quentyn Martell, Aegon (who didn’t die in the novels, oh that might be a spoiler) or Victarion Greyjoy) meaning the story doesn’t really tie together very well.

And other characters, who probably should have been killed off, are still in play, generally because there’s nobody left alive to replace them. Case in point we have Qyburn acting as a regular Mr Haney from Green Acres effectively running multiple government departments and being Cersei’s doctor, spy master & general sidekick/ass licker in his spare time.

I remember reading that originally J.J. R Martin considered making dragons very different more akin to Wyvern’s with all the fire breathing just being Targaryen trickery or smoke and mirrors. That might not have actually been a bad idea, because giving Daenerys an exclusive monopoly on such a powerful resource massively unbalances things, as in effect we are introducing high fantasy elements into what is a low fantasy setting.

Many of the implausibilities and absurd plot holes seen in season 7 are largely borne of the need to get around the issue of an overpowered Daenerys and the fact that so many of the original characters critical to the story are dead.

Advertisements

Blogging catch up

Not been blogging for a wee while due to the Christmas break, so I thought I’d do a quick catch up on some issues I haven’t commented on.

Weather cuts
You may have noticed that the weather is a little stormy at the moment, as we’ve seen a succession of storms hitting the UK. Indeed I had to fly back to the UK through one of them and it was something of an “Indiana Jones” flight. Oddly enough the nipper a few rows up stopped crying and seemed to enjoy all the bumping and jumping around as the plane landed, ignorance is bliss!

Anyway, you would think the government would be looking at bolstering spending to ensure less disruption next time the winter weather turns nasty. Actually the Tories are looking to make significant cutbacks into the budget of the environment agency and “hundreds” of those who gave up their Christmas to see the country through the crisis will be getting a pink slip as they’re new year’s gift.

That said, its long been known that the Tory party was a den for loony climate change deniers, so one wonders if this is them hoping that by shooting the messenger, the message won’t arrive. Presumably their “big society” will magically clear the roads of fallen trees and rescue people from rising flood waters.

Did anyone say climate change?
Of course whenever weather events like this occur, many turn to the issue of climate change as a possible explanation. While I would be the first to note the difference between “weather” and “climate” and the unreliability of linking any event between the two. Certainly a long term prediction of climatologists was that climate change would lead to the UK’s weather becoming more stormy and wetter.

This is inevitable, as warmer water’s further south in the Atlantic is the engine that drives most storms, leading to increased rainfall in our part of the world. Or indeed rather ironically, more snow in winter (if that rain happens to arrive in the UK the same time as a cold snap from the east).

Indeed as I’m either travelling between the UK and Ireland at this time of year or trying to climb mountains. I have to say that my experience is that stormy weather this time of year isn’t that unusual. What’s different this year is the storms seem to be that much worse than normal and while typically its my experience that most miss the UK and either head off into the North sea or scrape across Scotland (meaning the media never report it) every single one this year seems to have gone bang across the middle of the country. Although this is hardly a scientific anaylsis I’ll admit.

However, as pointed out in the Spectator magazine (of all places) we can’t just pass the buck and blame climate change for this one, even if it is just part of a long term trend. Cuts, both those already made and planned (as mentioned) have to be blamed for the disruption. After all scientists have been warning of such weather events for some time and it’s not as if this is the first time we’ve had flooding in the country.

The whole point of governments the Tories don’t get is that they are supposed to be there and keep the lights on as it were, even if this means spending money which it appears to be wasteful (by for example having all these gritters ready to go, even if we get a run of winters without much snow).

In the corporate world, if a company cuts back its budgets too much to the point where it gets overwhelmed by a sudden crisis and goes bankrupt, this is part of the normal business cycle. But when the instruments of state fall apart (e.g. the roads/rails get blocked, the power goes off, the mail doesn’t arrive, hospitals shut, etc.) the whole country stops and we can’t very well shut the UK down and reopen the country under a different name!

And if the climate scientists are even half right then what we’re now seeing could be the new normal in a few decades.

Snow trolling
Speaking of weather, tis the season for that favourite right wing pastime – snow trolling. This is where climate deniers come out with statements along the lines of “its snowing outside, thus global warming mustn’t be happening”. Or “there’s ice in the Antarctica, thus global warming can’t be happening”.

The following post from climatecrocks addresses these points. But in short, as noted, there is a difference between “weather” and “climate”. And cold weather in the Northern hemisphere is not by any means unusual this time of year, nor is ice in Antarctica at any time of the year.

There are charts and data available which tracks global temperatures, and the thickness of ice both in the Arctic and Antarctic and all show the thickness of ice sheets, particularly those onshore in the Antarctic (crucial as melting of these will lead to sea level rise) are thinning as well as recent rises in global temperatures (and no warming didn’t “stop” in 1997). Notably another record high in Australia.

In short all that deniers succeed in demonstrating is their own ignorance of the subject, their inability to do something as simple as draw and correctly interpret a graph and why we’re best left leaving this matter to the experts….well at least until Cameron sacks um all!

Nick Griffin bankrupt
It would seem that “nasty” Nick Griffin of the BNP has recently declared bankruptcy. While he and his mob of thugs party are trying to keep a brave face on it, it would seem that this bankruptcy is in part due to a variety of issues, ranging from financial mismanagement and the cost of litigation related to the party’s “white’s only” policy.

Of course one could argue that the BNP has been morally bankrupt for quite some time!

Previously, an MP (or MEP) who fell into bankruptcy was automatically bared from standing for office (the logic being that such an individual had clearly demonstrated he couldn’t be trusted with public funds and of course the possibly his financial position might make him susceptible to bribery). However those rules were changed recently, so in theory he could stand for election again.

But certainly it does push the BS barrier the likes of him suckling off a fat EU salary (Nigel Farrage too) while complaining about the EU and immigrants when it’s the latter two who pay his salary! And naturally this bankruptcy crisis within the BNP doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in their ability to handle money properly.

Thatcher’s Legacy
Speaking of right wing nut cases, we have revelations about what was really going on under Thatcher’s government.

One of the thorny issues regarding the miners strike has always been to what extend did her government plan to close down pits. When Scargill claimed that the Thatcher government planned to closed down nearly all of the pits, even in areas that currently seemed to be safe, many thought he’d gone a bit potty and was merely using the risk to a small number of uneconomic pits as an excuse to stir up trouble. Thus even within the mining unions, he did not enjoy universal support.

Of course hindsight would suggest (indeed the bulk of UK mines did close down under Thatcher and Major governments) that he wasn’t far wrong. But we now have confirmation that indeed, yes much of what Scargill said at the time was accurate, Thatcher did plan to close far more pits than they claimed at the time. Had this been known back at the start of the strike, it would likely have received much greater support, both within the coal mining unions as well as others unions and there’s a good chance it would have succeeded in its goals, quite possibly bringing down Thatcher’s government, much like the previous strike in 1974 brought down the Heath government.

Evidence has also emerged that Thatcher planned to deploy the army against miners and that the police may have falsified evidence against the miners.

Also we have revelations regarding Northern Ireland. Generally it is the view in Ireland that a major obstacle to peace was Thatcher, largely due to her ideological commitment to the unionists (or indeed her outright stubbornness). Thus, the peace process was essentially put on hold until John Major took over. Even though, quite ironically, he depended on Unionists votes to maintain the Tory majority

Thatcher by contrast provoked an escalating tit-for-tat war with the Republicans, with her not giving in to the hunger strikers, which provoked retaliation in the form of attacks on the UK mainland, including an attempt to assassinate her by the IRA (which to be fair was hardly likely to endear her towards a peaceful solution). Indeed, its likely she would have gone a lot further (she once talked about emulating Cromwell’s actions) had she not been restrained by the mechanisms of governments.

Blatter problems
The corrupt egomaniac head of world football, is upset with the amount of diving going on in football. Certainly sometimes many a match reminds me of a ballet performance with many “swanlake dives” being performed, the guy rolls around on the ground and is practically being given the last rites, yet as soon as he’s carried to the edge of the pitch or the person who put in a tackle (miles away from him) is booked, he’s back to life in manner of recovery unseen since Jesus did his party trick many Easter’s ago.

Anyway the proposal is to include some sort of time penalty. That if a player goes off injured he has to stay off until a certain period of time has passed. As its hoped this will discourage diving.

I’ve an alternative proposal – the sugarplum fairy award. This will be a prize for the best diver of the league. The “winner” of this award will be required to play the following season dressed in a ballerina costume complete with a pink dress and slippers and give an acrobatic twirl at the request of away fans. That’ll learn’em! Here’s a couple of nominee’s for the first award.

But seriously, here’s a proposal, why not go after the root cause? The reason why there is diving is that with so much money riding on the outcome of a football match, its all too tempting for players to want to cheat. So why not put a wage cap on the premier league players.

The Italian league shows where things are heading. It started off with diving and harmless theatrics, and now a few years later corruption has reached such epidemic levels that some are talking about suspending the Italian league for a few years.

Video killed the TV star
Charley Brooker‘s look at the history of video games was an interesting watch over Christmas. One theme that was all to present was the issue of violence within video games. Certainly, I would question whether it’s gone beyond the limits of taste in some cases (never was a fan of Carmgeddon or GTA).

However these modern day Marry Whitehouse types take the biscuit. Such as the irony of the NRA trying to link violent video games with spree shootings. After all in the Korea or Japan video games are practically the national sport, yet they don’t have a trend of spree shootings. One would be forgiven for asking if the real reason has something to do with the easy availability of guns.

The Jaffa School of Marksmenship

I’ve been catching the odd episode of Stargate SG-1 on pick TV the last few months and I think I would rate the “Jaffa” (that’s the minions of the Goa’uld, the main “bad guys” of the series) as the worse and least credible of Sci-fi “cannon fodder” units.

I mean they have all the survival instincts of the “red shirts” of Star Trek (you know how Spock, Kirk, Bones and some guy in a red shirt called Ensign Ricky would beam down do planet and 5 seconds later ensign Ricky’s is “he’s dead Jim“). And the Jaffa have aim that is worse even that the Stormtroopers of Star Wars. It seems that below the “stormtrooper school of marksmanship” there is a grade called “Jaffa school of stupidity“.

Then again, I reckon the reason the Empire lost in Return of the Jedi was because the Emperor was a Tory. Think about it, he spends a vast fortune of many hundreds of Quadrillions on a death star but then goes all corner cutting, leaving out important things, such as an armored grille over exhaust ports, or hand railings around the edge of bottomless pits (its a elf’n’safety nightmare that death star!). He also clearly cut back on proper training and vital equipment for his gunners (there’s one scene in the original version of star wars where you can see a gunner holding his hands over his ears, clearly Palpatine was too penny pinching to buy him a pair of ear defenders) and the number of fighters to protect the death star was clearly cut back significantly (just 3 it would seem!)…kind of like the UK government’s current spending plans regarding the future carriers which apparently won’t have any aircraft operating off them and we’ll have to borrow the carriers off the French three weeks in advance if we want to have a war ;D.

But I digress, how bad are the Jaffa? Well, in one episode a while ago a unit of them took off in pursuit of the SG team. This led them to a point where they walked across a large open field, bold as brass (fully aware that they were in pursuit of an armed enemy who could be lying in wait in the bushes and high ground) and when inevitably the shooting started they just stood there making the odd random off target shot back while they were easily picked off one by one :roll:.

I mean they could have A} not walking into an obvious ambush but gone around or used covering fire to flank the SG team B} fallen to the ground and returned fire from the prone position C} called in air support or heavy fire support….then again the fire support of Jaffa “death gliders” is pretty piss poor, they tend to perform worse (again randomly shooting the ground nowhere near the enemy), despite superior tech than a WW2 fighter. And despite their superior Goa’uld technology, they haven’t apparently used it to develop something like a tank or an APC or heavy support weapons (there are good tactical reasons why armies in the real world use these things, just ask any poor Squadie forced to drive around in an unarmored land rover through mine laden Afghanistan).

In other scenario’s the SG-1 team have easily infiltrated goa’uld ships/bases without any complications (pretty much knocked on the door and walked in!). I mean you would think they would have any entrances heavily guarded and monitored 24/7 by CCTV. You would also expect the most basic security measures, such as doors with controlled access on them (and alarms that go off when people fiddle with the locks), more CCTV watching all corridors, motion sensors, computers that require a login password to access, regular security patrols and alarms that go off when loud noises (such as gunfire) are detected or when a patrol doesn’t check in within a certain period of time. I mean my uni has better security than a Goa’uld mother-ship!

Okay, I’m taking this a bit too seriously, but the serious point I’m making, is that about when writing stories making sure you’re villains or heroes are credible. The “evil genius school of villainy” sort of wears thin after awhile, as most people recognise that it is fairly unlikely that any evil genius smart enough to build a mega death ray, would capture the hero, then rather than executing him on the spot, instead give him a ten minute powerpoint presentation of his plans, then leave the hero in a situation where he can easily escape from with plenty of time to thwart said plans :no:.

Similarly few real heroes match up to Raglan’s “the hero tradition (a system for rating heroes from folklore out of 22 points, father was a king, origins or birth unusual, fights an epic battle, etc, Oedipus gets all 22, Hercules 17, Robin hood 13 & Jesus 19 88|!). Just read the accounts of Victoria cross winners over the years.

By contrast in “proper” fiction, such as the “Game of Thrones” series (and the books its based on) or a number of the characters in Ian Banks novels (both the sci-fi and fiction), the line between “villain” and “flawed hero” is extremely blurred. And as a result its difficult sometimes to tell who is the hero and who is the villain, which makes such stories much more interesting, believable and engaging.

Katie Holmes tunnels out

It would seem that young Katey Holmes has finally succeeded in tunnelling out of the Scientology’s OSA (they’re the cult’s secret police) prison and sprinted into town. I was always wondering how long it would take a lady from a strict catholic upbringing to crack and make a break for it.

Then again, in Scientology terms what she did was perform a “disconnect” from Tom Cruise….Although in the process she’s likely become a “suppressive person” or at the very least a PTS (Potential Trouble Source), consequently the danger was the church would consider her thus “fair game” as they’ve done to previous critics of their cult (look at how John Sweeney of the beeb fared). Indeed John Sweeney has an article out here about what Katey Holmes can expect.

Now while I’m not usually the sort to go for Hollywood gossip it seems that she planned her runaway with a fair degree of precision (apparently the first Tom Cruise knew about it was when her divorce lawyer handed him the notice). She seems to have got a fairly good and quick settlement, keeping the kid, but that’s hardly surprising. I mean does Tom Cruise want her testifying about all the weird stuff he and his Thetan buddies get up to behind closed doors? I doubt it!

There’s a good collection of articles on Scientology in this website here.

Hans and silent Darth strikes back

Those with a “real life” who don’t really care who Luke Skywalker’s old man is might want to skip this article. But there has been an interesting summary on the Beeb arts page regarding the fight between Star Wars fans and George “tinker’in” Lucas.

When the digitally re-mastered version was released, some fans just groaned a little, but they were outraged by it when they realised that GL had altered the critical confrontation when Hans Solo shot Greedo (the funny looking alien bounty hunter he shoots in the Cantina). The new version has Greeto shooting first. GL’s position is that he was trying to emphasis that Hans had no choice but to shoot Greedo. Fans say that he’s lay’s it on way too thick and is tinkering with a movie classic. The cultural equivlent of drawing a smily face on the Scream.

Anyway, it now seems he’’s at it again. A key scene in which Darth previously remained silent, now the Blue-Ray disk version has Darth Vader screaming like a sissy girl. Naturally the fans are appalled at this turn of events.

My take? Well I know what I saw when I saw the film the first time and that’s what counts. And I’’ve a copy of both the original and re-mastered at home so GL can ruin the film to his heart’s content, I’’ll just not be buying a copy of that Blue-Ray disk. What I’m not going to do is put on a tinfoil hat.

What I will say is that there’s now a huge amount of “fan fiction” out there and thus fandom has moved well beyond that of the original film.

Update!
Also I would note that there is nothing strange about an artish returning to a work and producing several versions of it. There are for example multiple versions of “the Scream” and Van Gogh’s “sunflowers“. What is uncalled for, is George Lucas attempt to rewrite history and suppress the previous versions of his work. I mean he could make a ton of money if he was smart selling the alternative versions of the SW Hexalogy to fans and Blue-ray provides the perfect means for him to do it. Although I do understand his desire to suppress all knowledge of the “star wars holiday special” :oops:. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to see it you’ll understand where he’s coming from. I include a link to it here, but with a health warning, it really is very, very bad, and I mean bad enough to make people ill, so don’t blame me (or GL) if you’re foolish enough to click on the link above.

Barney time

Another recent story, they found a sample of dinosaur feathers preserved in amber in Canada. Dinosaur feathers? Yes it seems that some dinosaurs were actually covered in feathers, not the same as the feathers used by birds, but an earlier evolution of feathers, probably intended for warmth than flight.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14933298

The end result was that far from the “terrible lizards” we know some dinosaurs would have been big fluffy beasts…something like Barney the dinosaur! So the Jurassic era was more terrifying than we thought. Rather than T-Rex running around chasing down Triceratops, it was a case of Barney types going around singing “I love you, you love me..” I wonder if Barney Zombies existed back then also?

Seriously tho, this is interesting due to its implications for evolution. It clearly shows how things don’t (as the creationists put it) pop out of nowhere. The feather evolved from a structure with a very different use by a creature related to modern birds but in many respects very different…tho then again if you’ve ever looked a chicken in the eye you suspect he’s thinking a few millions years ago and you’d have been dead meat buddy!….well either that or just remember that I love you!